Trying to Figure Out Kagami Biraki
Meidi-Ya has had a bunch of these kagami mochi things on sale for a while now, in a range of nicely packaged sizes from this small baseball-sized one to gigantic watermelon-sized ones. It wasn't very clear what they were; they looked a bit like seasonal decorations, but it also said that it was made of glutinous rice, and the package had instructions on how to break the seal on the packaging. After reading up a bit more on it, I realized that it was exactly for that dual purpose: it was a seasonal decoration for the Japanese New Year, and to be opened up on January 11th. I thus waited until today to open it up and figure out how to eat it.
It was totally different from what I figured it would be. First off, this thing was rock hard. I mean, given its mochi name, I was expecting a soft gooey thing that oozed right out, but this thing was practically like plastic. And if I read up on the tradition correctly, one couldn't use a knife to cut it since it symbolically represented the cutting of ties. Yet, I couldn't break it apart no matter how hard I pounded on it. I thus capitulated and cut it with a knife, which frankly wasn't that easy either; despite how it looked, it was much stiffer than a hard cheese (and yes, the little daruma head on top really was just a plastic decoration).
Next, I had to figure out how to prepare it. I saw a recipe online that suggested pan frying it with just some simple seasoning. Seemed easy enough. And once heat was applied, it suddenly softened up. But it didn't just soften up; it became stickier than I ever thought it would be, pulling all my scattered pieces into a cement-like clump no matter how hard I tried to keep them separate. I figured that they should have behaved like a Korean ddeokbokki or even those Chinese stir-fried rice cake slices, but these things just held together like glue. In the end, I failed massively; it was nasty and nearly inedible, and I pretty much threw most of it out. One of these days I'm going to have to figure out how this is really done.